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Posts published in “Day: August 5, 2014”

METRO previews new FLEX ZONE for Aldine bus service Would replace Route 59 in 2015

HOUSTON – For the last few months, METRO has been re-examining its route system, and is now ready to announce a radical new redesign, according to a presentation made last Thursday night by METRO representatives at the East Aldine offices.

Representative Armando Walle had requested the meeting, to learn the fate of the Aldine Mail Route No. 59, and what transit service might be planned after the new Lone Star Campus is built on the Town Center site.

Jim Archer and Jose Pulido of METRO revealed that the board will get a Draft Plan in mid-August, and if they adopt the recommendations, a new route structure will be put into place June 7, 2015.

METRO officials said that there will be many benefits to the new system:

1. Simpler routes, straighter, improved connections, fewer branches

2. Better connections, aligned with where riders want to go, i.e. jobs, shopping, recreation.

3. More service, with higher frequency on main routes, weekend service that is similar to weekday, shorter wait times.

4. Links to job centers and activity centers.

Changes to the system were made after extensive meetings and community input over the last year, but this is a draft report, and additional comments and input are sought. You may send your ideas or comments by email to reimagining@ridemetro.org.

A key feature of the new system, as presented by the METRO staff, is the new concept of FLEX ZONES. There are five of these, in areas where ridership on fixed-route lines is too low. They include the following route numbers:

376 – Fifth Ward/Denver Harbor

377 – Mesa

378 – Kashmere

395 – North Shepherd

398 – Jensen (including Aldine Mail Route).

Here is how the Flex Zones are intended to work:

What are Flex Zones and how do they work?

Some parts of our service area have relatively low levels of population and street patterns that make it impossible to design an efficient bus route. Yet these areas still have a need for transit service. Flexible Service is a more effective way to offer basic access to hard-to-serve areas.

Within designated Flex Zones, customers can call to request service, which will pick them up at their curb or at a nearby intersection. The service will take them anywhere inside their zone or to a local transit center or connection point served by multiple fixed routes where they can connect to the rest of the network.

Service will be available once an hour at a time specified by when you call, and it will make stops to pick up other people. However, it is an efficient way to provide access to meet the needs of a community where fixed route bus service cannot be effectively operated.

Also, some customers within the Flex Zone area will be within walking distance of a fixed route service giving multiple options for utilizing the transit system. The flexible service allows riders to make the best decision for their trip.

METRO will discuss the potential Flexible Service with the communities in which it is proposed to be sure it is operated in a way that best meets their needs.

New Route Maps reduce local service in Aldine

It was noted in the meeting, that the new route maps do not show any East to West bus lines, and therefore no direct service to the Town Center site, the proposed Lone Star College on Aldine Mail Route, or access to the Flea Markets on Airline Drive, shopping on the North Freeway, or connections between Aldine High School and MacArthur High School, except through a very circuitous route through the Transit Centers.

New College plans reviewed

EAST ALDINE – The East Aldine Advisory Group met with representatives of Lone Star College last Wednesday afternoon, to hear Chancellor Dr. Stephen Head bring them up to date on planning for the new campus to be built on Aldine Mail Route.

Plans are proceeding, he explained, because the college will use a new financing method known as NMTC, or New Market Tax Credits, in lieu of a general obligation bond which was not approved in the election of 2013. But due to the pressing need for the Aldine community, Lone Star will meet the need by having a private developer build the building and the college will lease it back for academic use.

Lone Star will utilize 13.75 acres of the 61 acre site that the East Aldine District is developing. EAMD will donate the land, valued at $1.2 million and pay for service roads, utilities, and flood retention features on the site to an additional value of $1 million.

Lone Star College is planning on a building of 65,000 square feet, with 650 parking spaces. The facility is envisioned to be a center for workforce and academic preparation, economic and community development, and a focal point for training for area residents. The center will be designed to accommodate a student enrollment of 3000 students. It is expected to employ 100 full time staff, faculty, and administrators. In addition, about 100 part-time employees will be needed, according to Melissa Gonzalez, special assistant to the president and in charge of the new building.

The center is expected to open for classes in the Fall of 2016, according to Dr. Head.

The facility will have two major components:

Approximately one half of the facility will be designed to house “state of the art” training labs and dedicated classrooms for workforce programs. These workforce programs will be for both credit and non-credit course offerings. The workforce programs under consideration include high demand and high paying fields in the oil and gas industry and construction.

These may include the following: Machining Technology, Welding, Pipe-Fitting, Petroleum Technology, Electrician and Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC). Additional programs that may be offered in this center are Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Phlebotomist, and Medical Coding. The specific programs will be determined by advisory groups composed of community and business leaders and based on data such as job openings, future trends, educational attainment and liveable wages and salaries.

The remainer of the faility will be designated for academic support functions, including traditional offices such as admissions, advising and counseling, financial aid, and testing as well as administrative support. The instructional componenets of this facility will be designed for academic courses included in the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, and/or the completion of an associate’s degree. In addition to academic classrooms, instructional space will also be provided for science and computer labs. Furthermore, there will be designated classrooms for GED, ABE and ESL instruction.